Dion Charles: Culture Drives Successful Digital Transformation
To retain employees in today’s talent market, leaders have learned that they need to make an effort to drive happiness at work.
“Employers have heavily invested in doing whatever it takes to keep their employees happy, from hybrid or virtual work, to providing necessary support systems in terms of flexible time off and allowing for more maternity and paternity leave, for example,” said Dion Charles, director of change management at Rightpoint.
Leaders are also looking to improve digital employee experiences in a hybrid working world, but successfully doing so means embarking on a digital transformation and change management effort with leadership presence and company culture in mind.
Rightpoint is a global experience company, consulting firm and a sponsor of Reworked’s recent Digital Workplace Experience conference. To follow up on its session, Simpler Media Group spoke with Dion about successful change management.
The Employee Experience at Work
Simpler Media Group: How have you seen employee experience — and their expectations for experience — change in the past few years?
Dion Charles: Before the pandemic, there was a focus on technological advancements within the workplace. This focus was around automation and AI technology as organizations amplified the need for efficiency and speed to market. There was less focus on the disruptive impacts of these technological advancements on employees, who are the lifeblood of every organization.
With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, leaders and employees had to grapple with the reality and disruption of a virtual workforce. There was a shift within the employee mindset, where they became more focused on their health, wellness and happiness within the workplace. Work-life balance became more than just a common buzzword. This was a time of introspection for both leaders and employees. Employees viewed their role within an organization as more than just providing a specific service for a paycheck, and leaders realized that increased levels of support for employees was now a mandatory requirement if they wanted to retain valuable talent.
Thus, renewed energy on employee experience came to the fore because of this leadership focus on talent retention alongside the need to provide better employee working conditions and a meaningful work-life balance. Leaders are now interested in understanding how to deliver a much-improved employee experience so that they can retain the best talent to drive productivity and organizational success.
SMG: Why is employee experience more of a focus now?
Charles: Employees have awakened to the fact that they do not have to settle for whatever their employer deemed appropriate for the working environment. Additionally, this employee awakening is being recognized and acknowledged by organizational leaders.
Employers have struggled to retain valuable talent over the years, and it is more expensive to source and upskill new employees than it is to retain existing employees who are familiar with the organization’s culture and ways of working. Employers are now investing significantly in initiatives designed to keep their employees happy, including hybrid or virtual work and providing necessary support systems such as flexible time off and more reasonable maternity and paternity leave.
These leadership actions are creating positive, tangible impacts on the employee experience. As such, if leaders do not take the necessary steps to make employee experience a priority today, they will fall behind their competitors who are, in fact, making it a priority.
Digital Employee Experiences and Digital Transformation
SMG: What makes an 'ideal' digital employee experience? How does that differ from what most organizations are doing? What can they do to close those gaps?
Charles: An ideal digital experience is created when employees and customers are closely connected to the organization and can perform their roles and their responsibilities using a variety of secure platforms and devices. Leaders, employees and customers experience the benefits of customized, intuitive organizational portals. These digital platforms allow for virtual collaboration, and on-demand data access through mobile or personal computers. These platforms will also feature intuitive data search capabilities, effective approval workflows and transparency into business process activities.
Establishing effective digital experiences will also benefit employers by providing the ability to access macro-level quantitative data insights on employee sentiment, social networks and collaboration behaviors. Employers can also access macro-level data on levels of engagement between people leaders with their direct reports, to identify employee groups who may be at risk of exiting the organization due to insufficient engagement with their managers. These insights will provide the opportunity for proactive leadership engagement to take any necessary corrective actions to improve upon the employee experience.
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SMG: In your session, you’re highlighting five characteristics of successful change management. What do you think is the most important one?
Charles: There have been consistent data findings over the years that confirm the top success factor of effective organizational change is active and visible leadership engagement. Leaders need to inform and educate the organization on why disruptive organizational changes are necessary for the company’s ability to survive and thrive, and leaders need to allow the organization opportunities to voice their concerns about these incoming changes. If senior leaders are not actively engaging the organization, then the changes being rolled out may be viewed by employees as unimportant or not worth the effort.
Digital transformations are not just about technology implementations. Successful digital transformations require a reimagining of the organizational culture, and employee willingness to navigate through the transformation change journey. The organization’s senior leaders must be willing and able to effectively engage with employees and lay that foundation for a successful change journey that will result in employee adoption of the digital transformation experience.
Company Culture at the Center
SMG: Is there anything else you think readers should understand about the connection between employee experience and digital transformation?
Charles: Effective organizational digital transformations will provide unique opportunities for both leaders and employees to engage with each other virtually on a local and global level. This means that there will be greater awareness and response opportunities as disruptive changes are introduced within the organization.
However, the organization’s cultural composition must be clearly understood by leadership and the team managing the organizational change. All change activities that need to be executed within the context of an organizational change must align to the organizational culture. Clarity of understanding of organizational culture is one aspect of change management that is typically overlooked and should command greater focus if change management efforts are to be truly successful.
SMG: What are you watching, reading or listening to these days? Is there anything about their content or format that reminds you of optimal digital employee experiences?
Charles: I am currently reading the book “Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture” by Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn. Cultural assessments are an essential element of effective organizational change management. I am interested in methods to quickly understand organizational culture, including how to use these cultural insights to empower organizations to thrive when experiencing disruptive organizational change.
I am also in the process of conducting academic research in preparation for the development of the second edition of my current book, “Learning to Manage Organizational Change: A Practical Guide for Project Leaders and Change Professionals.” Within this second edition I plan on exploring Organizational Culture and Design Thinking within the context of organizational change management. These elements are critical aspects of successful digital transformations, and I see opportunities to articulate a point of view through my creative writing efforts.
Watch Dion’s Digital Workplace Experience session on-demand here.
About the Author
The events staff at Simpler Media Group, publisher of CMSWire and Reworked, work to inform our readers and community on our two conferences, CMSWire CONNECT and Reworked CONNECT.